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Pyramid Scheme MMM Kenya Collapses as Founder Mavrodi Dies

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MMM Kenya

MMM Kenya, a local affiliate of MMM Global, is in a limbo after the death of its founder Sergey Mavrodi. Mavrodi, who had been operating the dubious money doubling scheme online, reportedly passed away after a heart attack last Sunday, leaving thousands of his victims with worthless “mavros” and hundreds of millions of shillings lost.

Although the MMM pyramid scheme had already crumbled in countries such as Nigeria and South Africa, MMM Kenya continued its operations enticing thousands of people to pay money to strangers they interacted with online.

The Man: Sergey Mavrodi

Mavrodi was a renowned Russian fraudster who was found guilty in 2007 of swindling money from 10,000 Russian investors who lost more than $4 million and was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison. After his release in 2011, the MMM Ponzi scheme resurfaced only that now Mavrodi’s target market became the African continent. In 2015, MMM South Africa was established, promising participants a 30 percent return on their investment and bitcoin became the payment option of choice for the scheme.

The Ponzi scheme would later in 2016 spread to other African countries such as Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Media reports say that the 62-year old died of a heart attack after a short complaint of chest pain and weakness. Moskovsky Komsomolets, a Moscow newspaper reported that “Mavrodi was hospitalised in the 67th City Hospital. He could not be saved – he died this morning.”

According to a statement on their website, MMM Kenya administrators said “they have put the Internet-based infrastructure on “pause” mode, leaving all those in possession of “mavros” – the pseudo-currency sold by Mavrodi – unable to do anything with it. As such, those with money in the pyramid scheme will be unable to withdraw anything. The statement went on to say: “In the near future, the administration will take a decision concerning MMM’s future and report on it officially.”

MMM Kenya Membership

The common question that was asked of any new recruit interested in the pyramid scheme was: “How much money do you need to be absolutely happy?” MMM Kenya has recruiting agents who would then entice the new members into meetings and ask them to sign up so as to get financial assistance from other new members. The new recruits would then be asked to donate money to the “needy” – the older members – and, in turn, they would earn points in MMM’s (fictitious) digital currency. In the scheme, the more a person gave or the more an old member convinced new members to join, the more points – known as mavros – they earned which they could end up withdrawing as money.

According to the Daily Nation, those investing in the Ponzi scheme were also promised a 30 percent return on their investment and higher returns if they helped members within the scheme that needed financial aid. And the only way that MMM Kenya would survive is if more members signed up. If there is an imbalance between the number of new recruits and those seeking financial aid, the scheme would collapse. This was the case in Nigeria when the number of those seeking help surpassed that of those donating.

CBK Warning

The indefinite “pause” of the MMM Kenya operations comes two months after Patrick Njoroge, the Central Bank of Kenya Governor issued a warning to those investing in digital currencies like bitcoin and Mavrodi’s Mavros that it was a bubble and they should be ready to lose all their money.

The CBK notwithstanding, the operations of MMM in Kenya continued with thousands falling victim to the scheme with a promise of getting high returns on their investment. As Kenyans who have invested in the pyramid scheme await for a way forward from the company, it is only a matter of time before they can start counting their losses.

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African Bitcoin Exchange ICE3X Launches Android Mobile Trading App

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ICE3X Mobile App

After numerous requests from users for an  Android app, bitcoin exchange ICE3X has launched a mobile trading app on the Google Play Store. The app comes with all functionalities the web-based ICE3X trading platform currently offers.

Features of the ICE3X Android App

ice3xICE3X is a South Africa-based cryptocurrency exchange that seeks to provide the safest and most trusted platform for users to buy and sell digital currency.

With the launch of the Android app, users will now be able to make trades, transfer funds, compare charts and check their portfolio on-the-go. The exchange has also incorporated the help desk tool just like they have on their website that users can seek help and service from in case they have any issues regarding the app or the use of the ICE3X services.

Speaking to BitcoinAfrica.io about the launch of the Android app, Gareth Grobler, founder of the ICE3X platform said:

“We have a fully mobile adaptive platform, but decided to launch an app, mainly to make use of offline functionality which the app will provide. We are building a super secure non-custodial wallet, which enables users to control their own private keys in line with our ethos of supporting and promoting sovereign financial freedom and responsibility.”

Future Plans

Users can expect planned upgrades on the app that are meant to bring features that ICE3X were not able to pull off on its website alone. One such feature is the new bitcoin school that ICE3X will soon be launching. The bitcoin school will be available via the app, giving more people an opportunity to learn more about bitcoin in regards to independent wealth creation.

ICE3X will also be introducing more crypto products as the year continues to progress. Speaking to the matter, Grobler went on to add:

“We have a couple of crypto-based products at various stages of development (Instamyna & iceBOX) and we are excited as 2019 will also see us raising investment funding for the first time.”

Users can download the app from the Google Play Store, create their account and start trading right away.

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Bitcoin Ransom Demanded for Missing Nine-Year-Old Girl in South Africa

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Bitcoin Ransom

An anti-crime website and Facebook group known as Western Cape Gangwatch has received an anonymous message that is demanding for bitcoin ransom in order to return a missing nine-year-old girl. The kidnappers are demanding five bitcoin (around $19,000) for the release of the young girl.

Bitcoin Ransom Demand

The missing girl named Linathi Titshala was last seen on December 16, 2018. Titshala had celebrated her birthday on December 14, 2018, and her grandmother threw her a party on December 15, 2018, after which she spent the night at her grandmother’s Cork Tree Street home. On December 16, 2018, the last day she was seen, she was sent to her family home, two doors from her grandmother’s to go and have a bath, and has not been seen by any of her family members since.

On Thursday, the admin for the Western Cape Gangwatch group, who frequently works with law enforcement agencies, was shocked to reportedly receive an email that read: “Do you want to find Linathi Titshala. If you want her safe return you are to pay 5 Bitcoin to the following Bitcoin address. 1Bk4TQzDXhxGgMwrXcaFhViSyoT9GLk2kN. You have 48 hours should you not transfer the bitcoin in 48 hours we will cease communication. This email is going to be deleted in 12 hours.”

Search for Linathi Titshala Ongoing

Gangwatch tried tracing the email but have not been successful so far. A spokesperson for the group said: “We are trying to track it via the Bitcoin code, but believe the email the person is using was probably created at an Internet café, which automatically deletes it and there is no IP address available either. Hopefully, they realise the family’s circumstances and realise they cannot keep the girl for a lengthy period.”

Bitcoin FaucetsCandice Sobotker, from the Western Cape Missing Persons Unit said that the search for Titshala is still ongoing. Sobotker went on to say: “We are pooling all resources including doing a search again in the coming week. There will be a search for Linathi on Monday, 7 January and Tuesday, 8 January, [from] 9am-4pm. Everyone will meet at Delft SAPS. For more information, please contact Candice on 082 225 2612.”

Bitcoin transactions are hard to track due to the pseudo-anonymity of bitcoin wallet addresses which is why bitcoin has been increasingly used as a ransom payment method in kidnappings in South Africa.

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The Top 5 African Countries That Are Embracing Bitcoin

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African Countries

Bitcoin tends to polarise opinions between sceptics and believers, with almost no room for the middle ground. However, there’s a substantial demand for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in many Africa countries.

Do a quick search on Google Trends and you will see three African countries in the top ten of global search interest for the term “bitcoin.” This is a testament to the embrace of bitcoin in a number of leading African economies.

In this guide, you will discover the five leading bitcoin economies in Africa that have the most demand for digital currency as well as the most active local cryptocurrency communities.

South Africa

south africaBitcoin is popular among South Africans. According to their search interests on Google, they top the ranking for bitcoin. One particular group bitcoin appeals to is millennials. South Africa has a lot of them. Young people between the ages of 15 to 34 years old make up 20.6 million people – 35.7 percent of the total population, according to Statistics South Africa’s 2018 mid-year population estimate report. Combined with the fact that the country has one of the highest internet penetration rates in Africa, the country has become a sweet spot for many cryptocurrency exchanges.

The online multi-asset broker, eToro, reported a 671 percent increase in new users trading between January and November 2017, and a 574 percent increase a year before. LocalBitcoins, one of the largest peer-to-peer (P2P) bitcoin marketplaces in the world, saw over 600 percent increase in trading volume between January and December 2017, according to data from CoinDance.

The latest report by Ecobank on the state of cryptocurrency regulation in sub-Saharan Africa shows only two – South Africa and Swaziland – have a favourable stance on cryptocurrencies. The bank analysed 39 African countries.

The South African Reserve Bank has stated that virtual currencies pose no significant risk to financial stability, price stability or the National Payment System.

Africa’s second-largest economy has been struggling to stand on both feet for the past two years; the economy has refused to grow. In light of this, bitcoin has become a haven from the political and economic turmoil.

Nigeria

buy bitcoin in nigeriaIn Nigeria, many local traders and activists believe this is an opportunity to liberate themselves from a flailing economy using digital currencies and blockchain technology.

The main driving force for Nigeria’s strong bitcoin adoption could be tied to the prolonged dollar shortage in the country in 2016 and 2017. The government had devalued the currency and inflation was at rising rapidly. Bitcoin was a viable means for Nigerians to work around the lack of access to foreign exchange and also preserve their money from being eroded by inflation.

In the week of August 19, 2017, LocalBitcoins’ trading volume crossed the 1 billion naira mark (about $360 million) in Nigeria. The exchange’s weekly trading volume has not traded less than that amount since then. Local crypto exchanges have also been on the rise in the country giving more people access to a broader range of cryptocurrencies.

Zimbabwe

ZimbabweThe situation in Nigeria is not too dissimilar from Zimbabwe. A cash-strapped economy, failing currency and depleted foreign exchange markets saw locals turn to bitcoin as a store of value. Golix, the leading crypto exchange in Zimbabwe, says it processed bitcoin transactions worth around $1 million during October 2017. The price of bitcoin had once risen more than double the average price in other countries in 2017.

However, in 2018, the relationship between financial regulators and crypto businesses have been strained. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) decided to ban all local financial institutions from servicing cryptocurrency businesses. There have been court cases and more back and forth between the country’s leading crypto exchange, Golix and the RBZ, but as it stands it is difficult for local exchanges to operate within the country’s borders.

Young Zimbabweans – desperate to overcome the foreign currency and liquidity challenges plaguing the country – have found innovative ways around the ban though. Recently, Cryptogem Global defied the ban and opened a branch in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Remitano and LocalBitcoins have also been servicing crypto fans in Zimbabweans.

Kenya

KenyaA Citibank research in December 2017 ranked Kenya among countries with the largest bitcoin holdings worth $1.63 billion, approximately 2.3 percent of the GDP.

The East African country has one of the highest bitcoin trading volumes in Africa. The weekly trading volume on LocalBitcoins jumped by almost 429 percent in 2017 and has only dipped by 19 percent this year despite bitcoin losing two-thirds of its value.

Also, local innovators have launched cryptocurrency systems to support payments and cross-border transactions, as embodied by initiatives like BitPesa.

Kenya is also one of the few countries in Africa with a Bitcoin ATM. Others are Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Djibouti.

Ghana

buy bitcoin in GhanaGhanaians began the year 2018 with a statement from the Bank of Ghana (BOG) cautioning the public about the use of bitcoins.

The central bank also expressed an interest in introducing cyber security guidelines to guide the use of digital currencies in the country. The central bank presented a bill referred to as Payment Systems and Services Bill to the Ghanian parliament. The BOG also hailed the potential of the technology behind bitcoin, blockchain.

A report earlier in 2018 shows Paxful, one of the prominent P2P exchange in Africa, monthly bitcoin volume in Africa is now around $40 million. The company’s most active locations are Nigeria and Ghana, the second and third largest markets respectively.

There are also several local bitcoin and blockchain startups, such as Bitland and BTCGhana.

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